Last week, a swarm of book grabbing robots stormed the 2011 Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Video Competition in San Francisco. Books weren't the only thing they nabbed — they also plucked the best video award.

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Collectively known as a swarmanoid, the hand-bots, foot-bots and eye-bots that so captivated the competition are brainchild of Dr. Marco Dorigo, coordinator of The Swarmanoid project and professor at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Developments in Artificial Intelligence (IRIDIA) in Brussels.The Swarmanoid project is a Future and Emerging Technologies (FET-OPEN) venture funded by the European Commission.


The objective of the project was to design, implement and control small autonomous robots that are heterogeneous yet ultimately connected.

The video lands somewhere between a live-action version of Pixar's WALL-E and a 007 film, suction cup gagets and all. In the video, the swarmanoid is challenged to navigate through an office space to select a book from a shelf.

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First, the flying eye-bot zips through the office, fastening itself to the ceiling. After locating the book, it requests transport by deploying information to a network of foot-bots. The foot-bots then relay that information and link up with the shelf-scaling hand bot, closing the gap on an eloquent and quirky display of robotic choreography.